Fun with a green screen

Travis's green screen setup. Lights are helpful but not necessary.

Travis’s green screen setup. Lights are helpful but not necessary.


Since the office was officially working a half-day Wednesday due to it being the day before Thanksgiving, I decided not to make the monotonous one-mile commute into the office and instead worked from home. Being geographically dispersed, my team meets daily via videoconference and I decided I was done with putting the walls of our spare bedroom on display for my coworkers to see.

The day before a holiday called for something a little more whimsical, so I hatched a plan. I found some free software for the Mac called CamTwist that can do chroma key. Chroma key is the “green screen” technique that TV studios use to insert backgrounds behind their reporters and presenters. A few years ago our son, Travis, got a green cloth that makes a decent green screen. I borrowed his green cloth, set it up behind my office desk, fired up CamTwist, and displayed a holiday-appropriate scene behind me of wild turkeys in the woods. My coworkers loved it!
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A handsome exhibit

It would make a cool art project to cast the hands of people who work in various vocations and display them together.

Time stands still?

Kelly and I had a rare night alone last night, having shuffled Hallie off to a friend’s party and Travis off to a sleepover. We settled in on the couch to watch a movie, keeping an eye on the clock on the mantle so we could pick Hallie up from her party in time.

As the clock advanced to our 9:30 departure time, we increased the frequency of checking it, of course. I looked at it at 9:15, turned again to the TV, then checked the time again a few minutes later. It seemed that time was passing more slowly than I had expected but I thought little of it.
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Busy busy weekend

Been pretty busy around Chez Turner. First off, right around Christmas I caught some sort of cold which sapped much of my energy for a few days. Then my stuffy nose kept me from sleeping well for several nights. But that wasn’t enough to keep me from trying to do way too much as is my habit.

The changing calendar brought about the urge to knock out plenty of tasks that have been nagging us for a while. We cleaned out our attic of a ton of unneeded stuff. Then we did the same to the garage. Then we did the same to the utility room. Then we painted our dining room (after, what, six years?). Then we shifted our living room furniture around. Then we hung pictures on the wall (after, what, six years?). Oh, and I put in a charging station for our electric car.

In-between, we found time to go ice skating with our friends, go on a run or two, host our kids’ friends for playdates, go see the excellent movie The Imitation Game, and even get in some music practice. I’ve also spent some time building a spreadsheet to decipher our Time of Use – Demand (TOUD) electricity rate from Duke Energy Progress. I fixed up our CR-V to sell (Armor-All, car wax, engine cleaning, photography, create an ad) and used a smartphone app and a $15 OBD2 adapter to get the car like new. I also toyed with my new RTL-SDR tuners I bought from China, capable of tuning from about 50 MHz to 2200 MHz. And somewhere in there I made time to cook a very tasty meal tonight, after I watched the second half of the N.C. State win over Duke.

Life sure is busy but it’s also good.

Meeting Daylight Saving Time half-way

Clock Radio

Clock Radio

Since I am not yet Dictator of America and unable to dispatch with this silly notion of Daylight Saving Time, I have decided to meet the time-switch halfway. I will change all of my clocks to Standard Time again but will adjust my bedtime/waking time by a half-hour. Rather than awakening an hour later than I did during the summer, I’m waking only a half-hour later. Bedtime comes a just a half-hour earlier, too, rather than a whole hour. My daily routine in-between matches that of the rest of the world.

To summarize:

EDT wake time: 5:30 AM -> EST wake time: 5:00 AM
EDT bedtime: 10:30 PM -> EST bedtime: 10:00 PM.

This is the same routine I did a few years ago. We’ll see how long I choose to keep it up.

Becoming a flasher

Now that our daughter’s in middle school and is involved with extra-curricular activities we needed to get her her own phone, so she inherited my smartphone as I upgraded mine. Having a new phone has provided me the opportunity to try out something I’d been meaning to do for a while: flash my phone with an open-source version of Android.

What’s the worst that can happen? Well, flashing a new ROM onto your phone can turn your sophisticated pocket computer into an expensive doorstop. Known as “bricking” your phone, a mistake in the process can make it inoperative. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides which walk you through the process as well as simple “one-click” programs which will do the dirty work for you. And even if you goof up, you can almost always fix things up again.
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Fixing the home

Friday I was chatting with a neighborhood parent when she told me of a disturbing incident she witnessed as she drove through my neighborhood earlier this summer.

As she was passing one house, she saw a woman getting into a car at the curb as a young boy, probably 7 or 8, came running up to her. Anticipating a loving scene where the boy gets a big hug from his mom, my friend was instead shocked to see the woman turn and strike the boy with the back of her hand, knocking him to the ground!

The kid picked himself up off the ground and calmly walked back into the house. It was as if this wasn’t the first time that this kid had been hit.

I was aghast. Hearing this broke my heart. This kid lives in my neighborhood. I’ve waved to him many times as he’s quietly ridden his bike around his front yard, always by himself. He seems like a good kid but that’s beside the point. What the hell was this woman thinking to hit a child like that? How screwed up is she to think this is okay?
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Raleigh police officer takes out the trash

I submitted this letter to the editor for the N&O today, hoping the word gets back to the officer involved. This 30 second interaction made my day.

As I drove south on Capital Boulevard Monday morning, I noticed a Raleigh Police officer a few cars ahead of me. Suddenly, traffic came to a halt as drivers avoided a bag of trash in the road. Though it was raining and the traffic was heavy, the officer took the time to stop, walk back to the trash, and remove it from the roadway.

It was another example of the pride and dedication shown each day by our men and women in uniform. Thank you, officer, for a job well done!

Britian’s ITV investigates Bosch dishwasher fires

A guest blog reader kindly alerted me to an investigation by Britain’s ITV channel which aired two days ago on Bosch dishwashers catching fire. The report is highly critical of the “voluntary recall” process that Bosch seems to be using, pointing out that nearly half a million potentially faulty Bosch dishwashers are still in use in the UK.

I’m still working my way through the ITV report but I assume this number is based this on the models that have been recalled but not yet fixed. I’d like to know if situations like mine have been considered: models which haven’t been recalled yet still pose a fire hazard?

Here’s the first of the video reports. I’ll see if I can link to the others (though it appears ITV is using some kind of country-specific DRM-cruft to block viewing here in the States).

Reports of Bosch dishwasher fires pour in

I did a search of the CPSC website, SaferProducts.gov, to see if my Bosch dishwasher report had been posted yet. What I found was a shocking number of similar reports, many of them of full-fledged fires that started in Bosch’s defective control board. Many of these reports are for the recalled models, but not all of them! It seems my problem is not unique.

Over just the past 12 months there have been 26 reports filed on Bosch dishwashers.
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